Pinoy farmers at IFEX

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CHIT JUAN

CHIT JUAN

THE IFEX show at SMX was at its usual best. The best products from the Philippines come out of their export vans and display themselves to the trade buyers, importers, and the general public (usually on the last day) at this special exhibition. Held usually in May of every year, it is curated by the Center for International Trade Exhibitions and Missions (Citem) headed by the indefatigable Rosvie Gaetos.

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There were special settings for mango, coffee, cacao and coconut. There were huge displays of big brands like Mama Sita’s as well as smaller brands like Ala Eh and Binalot, the popular food chain that will soon be in Dubai. People tasted the sampled food, the drinks and I myself got some cocoa butter and 70 percent raw chocolate , from Kablon Farms. I saw my pet project Magirco of Magpet, Cotabato display their banana chips, too.

The DTI and the DA had huge displays of new and old exporters, and many new upstarts who are being helped by the DTI’s Export Marketing Bureau headed by Director Senen Perlada. The DA had representation from many regions, like Club Eco Farm of Abra and the Philippine Coffee Boards tht had Cordillera coffee, Batangas and Cavite’s Kickstart coffee too.

Everyone in the farming community dreams of someday being able to show their products in IFEX or the International Food Exhibition, that is held only once a year and is every farmer’s dream. To see the product beyond our shores. To make every farming community sustainable.

I make special mention of our pride in the coffee industry Princess LalahSug-Elardo who has always taken the challenge of showing her coffee products at IFEX for a few years now. I remember her first display two years ago. Simple, coffee in foil packs and some in baskets. This year, she even has green raw coffee beans you can touch and feel, she has roasted coffee you can smell and she has Civet coffee you can buy. Her baskets are now also done by her own community in Panamao, Sulu. They only used to get the native baskets from Bicol then brought them to faraway Sulu. But a grant from Telus International Foundation brought trainors who taught their young girls how to weave the baskets. So they are now self-sufficient and weave the baskets their coffees are packaged in.

She related to me how the coffee trade has helped her cooperative’s members become better citizens. In fact, one of her members named Mujjakir who is a Patikul resident was the one who rescued the abducted Swiss national some months ago and turned him over to the military for safety. So when the farmers are able to have economic activity and maybe soon export , too, they practice the teachings Princess stresses in their Value Formation classes. It’s not just money, but a better life built on moral values, that coffee promotes in this particular Sulu community. She tells me “not all Tausugs are trouble makers,” she declares. “Given a chance to be productive citizens, they can contribute to peace and to society’s goals,” she says.

I also got to talk to Tina Morados of Pamora Farms who has gathered her neighbors in Abra who are all into organic farming. “This is what happens now—we gather our neighbors so all of us can sell together, “she says. What a wonderful concept in sustainability. They have chickens, eggs, mangoes and fruits from the same area and they sell like a club or a group.

So behind IFEX are these farmers who become empowered because of market access these shows provide. There are farmers who never even saw a trade buyer come to their village. But through enterprising ladies like Tina and Princess, enterprising leaders like Bobot Zamoras of Magirco, these farmers are able to find sustainable incomes.

That’s the Pinoy for you. Quality –wise, exportable. And community wise, sharing best practice, sharing resources and sharing the chance to dress up for the world.

Thank you to IFEX for giving our farmers a chance to be there.

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Chit Juan is the Founder and President of ECHOstore Sustainable Lifestyle located in Serendra, Podium, Centris, Davao City, Makati and Cebu .She is the President of Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and the Philippine Coffee Board Inc. She often speaks to corporates, academe and entrepreneurs about her advocacies: Social Enterprise, Women Empowerment and Coffee. You can reach her at puj@echostore.ph or find her on Twitter@Chitjuan, Instagram: CHITJUAN or Linked In: Pacita Juan.

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